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Suzanne, Therapist, LCSW
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 919
Experience:  Experienced in treating trauma, relationship issues, co-dependency
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Hi--thanks for addressing my question. I have been with my

Customer Question

Hi--thanks for addressing my question. I have been with my boyfriend for 3 years and 4 months. He has two daughters. One is 18 and a senior in high school and one is 21 and in her 3rd year of college. In July and August I wanted some space as we determine our future. He has been hesitant due to his daughter's. So, we talked each day and I saw him from time to time (previously planned events with his family etc.). Over that time we are back together after he planned a beautiful birthday for me with my two adult sons. I am five/six years older than my boyfriend.

His ex-wife had a boyfriend for most of the time we have been together but it appears that she does not at this time and it probably changed during our time of space (or somewhere in there).

There have always been boundary issues, from my point view, that ebb and flow with his ex-wife. My boyfriend is a wonderful father and they both seem to do a good job co-parenting. Some of it seems carried too far at times for my comfort. Here are some recent examples.

1. About a month ago they (my boyfriend and his ex) moved their older daughter into college. The daughters said they wanted only their parents to do this so my boyfriend and his ex-wife drove toghether--2 hours there and 2 hours back. The daughters took another car and on the way back (they left one car) and the younger daughter joined the mother and father for the return trip home. They of course all ate dinner together.

2. About a weer or two ago they had to view graduation pictures of their senior daughter and all went together--the evening had been previously planned with me--nothing specific but planned. He didn't know about the evening's slide show and the daughter informed him the day before. He has never cancelled on me in all of this time and if there was some sort of change he was sure to make sure I understood and he would find a way to follow through with me. I understand plan changes--but, with the recent added involvement with the full family I lack some understanding. I am generally a very positive and supportive person and I can accomodate a lot (perhaps too much sometimes).

3. There has always been a fair amount of texting. As far as I know it is only about the kids but sometimes the ex wife has pushed the limit a bit. Most recently she posted a picture of their daughter and tagged him (my boyfriend) and said "we had so much fun...." He says this was when the mother took the daughter to Lake Michigan to take the pictures--she posted it one or two days after the evening slide show (I say she was trying to be nebulous--or offering a hand out--perhaps trying to open the door). I believe her boyfriend (or ex) was not comfortable with some of these things either.

4. My boyfriend and his ex had to go to a college information session one evening last week and again he was going to cancel with me (we met after but at my suggestion). This, too, was a change in plans (for us) and he said that he forgot about it. I believe he did but I would have suggested that I either go--or he offer another arrangement. Especially after what has been happening of late.

5. This last weekend the exwife stopped by his house two times--supposedly once (Saturday) to pick up/borrow some make-up from his daughter (mother forgot hers or something). He was mowing the grass and he said hello and continued to mow the grass. Then, a second time on this last Sunday she was there after he had picked me up from my house and we (he and I) arrived at his house. She left immediately when we arrived--she had dropped off her daughters after taking them on fall apples/cider outing. These things were not happening previously (or at least more limited). Again, always a challenge. For instance, they do Christmas morning all together (kids did not want me or her boyfriend to be there). I have said, once again, that will not be acceptable for me this year (have me join in--I can understand and very much support co-parenting but not at my expense after this much time and investment with my boyfriend).

Again--he is a wonderful father--he expresses he wants to be with me and has been a wonderful boyfriend (excepting these painful, excluding type of activities over past years). We both feel we have more than ever with each other but I do not want to have painful episodes where his life is compartmentalized such that it can be hurtful to me. I also like his daughters very much, and they are beautiful inside and out, but seem to be having difficulty accepting a new way of life. they have both been seeing counselors and my boyfriend is/was hopeful they will come around. I believe they like me but are resistant to change. My boyfriend and I are reading the book "The New Couple" together and we are seeing a counselor/therapy type of individual from time to time.

I would appreciate your insight very much. Thank you for your time.
Most sincerely--SRJ
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Suzanne replied 5 years ago.

Thank you for bringing your question to Just Answer!


Trying to blend families is one of the hardest challenges of modern life. I'm glad to see the two of you are getting some counseling. I have a fair amount of experience in this area (relationships with children from previous marriages) and you may be surprised at my take on this.


It makes sense that his daughters are having a hard time adjusting to the change--going away to college is both exciting and frightening. This is a rite of passage that makes them asking for their parents to be there very understandable. They are probably being somewhat protective of their mother,as well, as she's alone at the moment. Texting is a way of life with college age kids...if it bothers you, ask him to turn off his phone during intimate moments together.


If would be almost impossible for him to be able to be an excellent co-parent and not have contact with his ex. He cannot control her actions, but his responses seem very appropriate: he just kept mowing the lawn, etc. He does seem to have a good sense of boundaries with her.


Expecting to go to college activities when the ex-wife must be present may not be your best response. Expecting to be invited to Christmas morning at the ex-wife's house may also be unrealistic. Would you feel comfortable entertaining her on Christmas morning? There are certain times when you will be an outsider in that family system--birthdays, holidays, momentous occasions like first day of college, the girls' weddings.


I fear that your taking these things personally, rather than recognize that you will most likely never (even if the two of you marry) be a full player in that family constellation, will create conflict where there doesn't need to be any. Make wonderful plans for yourself on the days when he must interact with the ex--be with friends, go to a spa, anything that will give you a rich experience that you'll enjoy.


He sounds like a very responsible, respectful man. Don't focus on what you can't do with him (activities with daughters) but instead on all the rest of the time you have together. You can be sure that the ex wife is much more jealous of the time you have with him than you could ever imagine. Try to have some compassion for the loss and grief she must be feeling at this point.--she lost him, and now she's losing her daughters to college. Her nest is very empty. Yours is full--you have him and your boys.


You'll be much happier if you can get to a place where you can accept the fact that his life is compartmentalized, recognize that he has a good sense of boundaries and enjoy your time together rather than focusing on a day here or there that he's with them.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Hi--thanks for your time--too much was not understood or confused in the perception of my question. I would like to close out. This method won't allow enough understanding to proceed.

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